Feds Lend Support to Freeway Removal

Communities divided by freeways for decades are now looking to reconnect, and the U.S. Department of Transportation is stepping in to offer support.
August 10, 2016, 5am PDT | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Lev Kropotov

The pendulum on new highway construction seems to be swing backwards now as more cities look to tear down, bury or bridge over existing freeways that have divided communities for years. Pete Bigelow of Car and Driver writes that the movement to break down the physical barriers caused by the interstate freeway system cutting through cities has gained strong support from U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Last month, the Dept. of Transportation launched the Every Place Counts design challenge, with the goal of finding creative solutions to stitch back together neighborhoods and communities divided by highways in cities around the country. Foxx and his team toured Philadelphia, Nashville, Spokane, and Minneapolis and spoke with locals about potential solutions.

Unlike the Smart City Challenge, a recent DOT competition that ultimately awarded $40 million in federal funds to Columbus, Ohio, to implement an innovative network of connected transportation options, there’s no funding attached to the Every Place Counts challenge. At this stage, the support is only in technical planning, though transportation officials say they’ll help communities pursue funds for implementation.

But both competitions highlight the way federal officials are examining transportation’s role in revitalizing urban cores and helping some of the country’s poorest residents gain access to health care, education, public spaces, and better jobs. In the case of Every Place Counts, the program is analyzing how transportation contributed to these problems in the first place.

As Bigelow notes, the idea of freeway removal is still relatively new, with opponents expressing fears of gridlock and suffering business. However, as case studies in Portland, Milwaukee, and San Francisco have shown, these fears are largely unfounded.

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Published on Monday, August 1, 2016 in Car and Driver
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